Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bookshelf: Janine Latus



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Two weeks ago my mother called me from her vacation in North Carolina. I'm reading this book, she said, and it's keeping me awake at night. I can't handle it, she said. Mom, stop reading it if it's upsetting you this much, I responded. I can't, she said, I need to know what happens.When she passed "If I Am Missing or Dead" on to me on Mother's Day I had serious hesitations. I already have crazy dreams as is. Did I really need to add to them? Just read it, she said. So I opened the book on Monday morning on my way into work. It's wednesday afternoon and I'm done.
"If I Am Missing Or Dead" is a memoir about the dramatic and often times traumatizing life of Janine Latus. I love her writing style. It's fluid like a journal might read, without the abruptness of dialogue. She doesn't use quotations marks and conversation is woven into the story so seamlessly. We begin in 2002 when her younger sister Amy went missing. Then we retreat back to her childhood and learn about her lifelong abuse by men. Everyone, it seems, from her father to her boyfriends, to her husband mistreated her. For me it was the one week she spent at a campground when she was twelve that I loved the most. She meets a boy there who seems like he'd be a tough guy and yet he was the sole man (aside from her brother) who treated her with the utmost respect, never pushing to try and get a kiss while the other boys around camp got hot and heavy with the girls her age. It was the short calm before the storm though, and I found myself wincing and my stomach churning throughout most of the story. It was difficult for me not to look away from the page quite often. It was hard for me (and I really fought with it) to face the reality of her life. This is the story of her life and that makes me incredibly sad that someone had to suffer through so much while feeling she couldn't tell anyone.
Despite the heavy material, I think that "If I Am Missing Or Dead" is a must read. Clearly, from both my mom's reaction and my quick digestion of it, it's the kind of story that affects you emotionally and yet you have to know what happens next. I think it is incredibly brave (and I'm sure freeing) of Latus to write about her family and her experiences in such an honest way. I really appreciated that and I'm sure women who find themselves in the same position she was in appreciate reading about how she struggled to free herself from her relationships and fears.
For more information about the book visit this site.

xoxo
~Stephanie
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